Djentrification Interview

Were you born in phoenix?


Do both of your parents still live here?

In the state.

I saw your dads show at alwun house a few months back and talked with him…he had so much art…it was amazing…all that time batiking…

was he always doing art when you were young?

Yeah, he was. I saw a lot of different mediums…he would make t-shirts for my family. Like crazy pancho villa shirts or shirts with kubla khan. He would do silk screens by cutting the design into wax paper. He would lay it on the silkscreeen and screen it backwards, sticking the stencil to the front of the screen.

Isnt your mom an artist too?

I would say that she is. She makes quilts and sews.

They were both into textiles…?

yeah they worked together on some things like that.

So is there some particular moment when you started doing art?

In school I used to draw..

like what?

I remember drawing some battles between aliens and knights or soldiers. The girl sitting in front of me in class turned around and told me to shut up cause I was making explosions… sound effects for my drawings…i was completely unaware of it and embarrassed by it…


Was it your dad?

Nah…just for the cool imagery.


Whats your take on aliens?

I think theres lots of different life in this world.

One time up north in the mountains, I saw a thing that looked like a huge amoeba, transparent, floating along the rocks. Other people saw it too.

What did you think about?

It looked like something that made sense as a lifeform on this planet, like something that you would see at the bottom of the ocean on national geographic. Recently, I googled, researching keywords to see if anyone else had seen anything like this. I found one person that described something very similar but that was it.

In the states?
Cant recall where. And it could have been BS anyways.

Is that the image we see in your art?
no, the star eye is what your thinking of. I had never seen a star with an eye drawn in it. I wanted to draw it cause I had never seen it before.  I was drawing it and Pablo showed me a similar symbol, an Aztec symbol, called Olin. It’s a symbol of movement.

how do feel about street art?
I’m always making jokes about “street art” with my friend brez. I like graffiti more.
what do you mean?
a lot of street art nowadays, since its become popular  is contrived. They’re trying to use it to get money in a gallery. Not everyone, but some people. They’ll do their 3 little pieces on Roosevelt, wheatpastes or whatever and they’ll take 20 different photographs of it. And then they’ll post them on the internet or their blog. It doesnt upset me or concern me. I’m happy that people express themselves. But theres’ street taggers that I have more respect for.  It’s a mixed bag. Its not black and white. I really do enjoy just going around the city and seeing all the different types of creativity. I really like hand painted signs on buildings…like for the lettering. I enjoy many things that can be seen around. I saw some cool little funky half finished mural by the youth hostel the other day cutting through the alley. There are some fresh burners by the seventh ave bridge right now-big colorful pieces, without  permission. I like seeing all of it.

how do you feel about legal versus illegal art?
Some of the most exciting expressions you are going to see around the city…and this is just my opinion… I enjoy seeing expression where you don’t expect it. Now that can be a train yard, it can be a billboard, it can be a building that’s fenced up and about to be knocked down and someone snuck in and did their very best. And I enjoy that type of stuff a lot. And theres also murals where people have permission and they did their very best, and I enjoy that stuff too. And sometimes theres stuff that’s so ugly horrible, and just pathetic and I enjoy that stuff too. Theres some super horrible graffiti on a rooftop near 18th st and mcdowell and its hilarious. Or right now on carlys…on the west side of the building…half the wall fell off..removing the bottom half of the face…someone else came and drew the most jacked up looking alligator mouth over it…its amazing.

yeah, I kinda wondered what was up with that.

what is it about seeing this expression that you appreciate?

I think I appreciate everything about it. Its an honor to get to express things , to get to see anothers expression or hear it. Also the combinations seem limitless. I’m just really thankful for it. This makes me think of marios feasts and how he expresses himself through cooking…

do you think that’s theres a lack of expression overall in society?
certainly there are people that feel unable to express themselves-I hope for people that they can! But basic needs: food, clothing, shelter,mental health….these are before abstract expression in a ‘hierarchy of needs’. Im thankful to get to hear folks say what their story is. I had a dream recently where my ears had turned into the “olins’ we mentioned before. it was funny.

When did you start spinning records or getting into music?

I have loved music since I was a kid. I feel really lucky my folks were into strange music, they went to India before I was born. I heard crazy music from them growing up, a lot of it bugged me, but then grew on me later. There were crazy Jamaican records, stuff like ‘big youth’ ..ska compilations (I still have and play these, one has the song ‘phoenix city” on it) I had weird local new wave stuff right there in the house, this was middle and early 80’s…late seventies. I got into more sound experiment stuff by the time I was 12/13 I would use many tape recorders to make collages with sounds. My uncle terry showed me how to cover the magnet on the tape recorder. It makes it so you can record over the last layer, gradually building up layers like a rudimentary 4 track-a couple of years later I was finding out about psychic tv and their ‘experiments’ with sound and intention. It was when they came here in the early/middle 80’s. It really struck a cord with me. I kept getting interested in experimental music… right out punk stuff…Im kind of an old skater-punk really. I was getting grounded for going to JFA as a twelve yr old… this was later getting into this strange sound collage stuff.

So later, around the year 1998 or so, I had gotten a turntable by accident and I was trying to make a tape collage or a mix tape but using beats and records that I had. It was much harder and then I remembered all my DJ friends from the early 90’stalking about beat matching. I’ve always hated the idea of counting beats. I never wanted to do that, and I don’t. I was trying to make a tape to listen to just for when I would come back from these really long walks around the city late at night. What I didn’t realize was I needed to learn how to DJ to make that tape right. It was music like DJ Krush and Hive… Vadim. One day I just heard how these two songs went together in my head and then I was able to begin learning how to do it. I never wanted to be the dj guy but we started having parties for ourselves in the neighborhoods downtown and I was asked to do it from other people and it just kinda kept going. I feel like it kinda chose me.

how do stay up on internationall music and why is that important?
From word of mouth… People telling me about stuff.  From just diggin records and finding records….And those records leading me to search more for those kinds of music. From stuff my parents exposed me to and from traveling. And just like everyone else…using the internet and learning from other peoples research. Why its important to me…number 1 its educational to know about other peoples expression from around the world. Its transcendent beyond language barriers many times. You can get a feeling hearing some music from another country even if it has no words. Another reason its important to me is that I feel like music has this incredible quality or effect of connecting people. I don’t care what kind of music it is…I’m pretty certain that its doing it most of the time.

How/why the name djentrification?

It was the early 2000’s…things were changing downtown…there were new people coming in…developers telling us that they were gonna bring life to downtown phoenix. But there was already tons of different kinds of life down here. There had been for…well since …did you know they found ruins from 3000 years ago in downtown phoenix? Ask brez about it. Anyhow, these new developers were primarily interested in profit more than actual revitalization from downtown people, neighborhoods, and kids. I learned that this was called gentrification so I was putting this word out there so that more people would have to learn the word, its been a pain in the ass as a dj name, folks always screw it’s funny dj gentrification, dj entrification, aiy yai yai..its funny so I figured some kid, they might see it, learn the word, and study it later, they might find a solution. Also djentrification represents the opposite force-it was a play on words, kind of a joke. anyhooooow.

How can that force be active or do you think that it can? say like blight…
I don’t really think of like that…it doesn’t have to be blight or unaffordable…it can be something in the middle.
Are you speaking mostly about rents? Really now with the economy…it is degentrifying…rents are going down in some cases…home prices have dropped. But so has everyones income…most peoples I guess…but I’m really not an expert in this realm.

it seems like a lot of your energy is focused on events or constructing social functions, like the weekly at  602sdays at Bikini or the park jams…do you think that is one of the most vital actions of a vibrant culture?
I honestly don’t think about it in those terms…sometimes I have so much stuff to focus on…like making flyers and moving speakers, working on a set, making burritos, I don’t think in those abstract terms about these things. Maybe I should more.
I feel like when you stand back and look at things you see this trajectory of happenings and they form themes and threads.
I am interested in the currents and connections becoming stronger here through communication, celebration, expression. I want parties where anyone feels welcome there. I want parties where people can afford to get in. to have park jams in the neighborhood…it just makes sense. Phoenix is really Do-It-Yourself from how I saw it growing up here. You cant wait for someone to come and make something for you…that might never happen. And some people will only make it affordable to rich people…and we should just do what we can. Theres a lot of people here doing things and I’m excited about it. From the indigenous, the original people, to people that just moved here from Afghanistan. Part of the reason I’m excited about the Palace parties at the film bar is to have international beat parties here, just for the music and the party, but also to try and bring a focus on all the different international culture here in the valley.

Why do you feel its so important to acknowledge and appreciate the local culture?
for one,  just out of respect. 2. curiosity ,I don’t care where I was, I would be curious to learn something. its like seeds I guess, water them, that way too for the young people, and to try and learn about things that have gone down ,one can learn from our elders as well. Theres’ many different aspects to this place.  The lands, right here in Phoenix are O’odham lands… the mountains-theres’ culture here. Maybe its not out in front how folks are used to it some places, but it’s the desert. you have to wait till dark or look under rocks is how I used to tell folks, I could be deluding myself, but I feel like no matter where one is in this world there is something one can learn.
PS. Respect South Mountain and much respect to all my relations.


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